Where Ecuadorians Go to Escape the City?

“Don’t worry, you won’t have a problem finding a place to stay,” said my friend as we drove into General Villamil Playas (commonly just called “Playas”), the closest beach town to Guayaquil. “The hotels here never fill up.”

He should know. He owns a condo in Playas and drives there easily in just over an hour from his home in Guayaquil to spend weekends and holidays at this beach town on Ecuador’s southern coast, named by some as the “sunniest beach” in the country. So after lunch at the Ocean Towers Beach Club (the nicest beach resort I’ve seen anywhere in Ecuador) we set off in search of a hotel room for the night.

You guessed it: no room at the inn. It was the last holiday weekend of the summer season, after which kids would be back in school and parents would be settling into the school-week rituals. During holidays in Ecuador, anyone who lives close enough goes to the beach. Still, I’ve often told people that unless there is a holiday they won’t have problems finding accommodation in Ecuador’s beach town. Problem is, there’s always something to celebrate in Ecuador.

Luckily for me, my friend knows many people in Playas. A friend of his owns a perfect little beach bungalow that family members often stay in and that she occasionally rents to people like me…who show up with no reservations. Called La Ramada, it’s on the other side of the jetty from Playas’ municipal beach and the perfect place from which to explore the town.

It felt like I had my own private beach, in fact. There were only a few beachgoers enjoying the sun, sand and waves just big enough to support a surfboard. (A great place for a novice surfer.) After taking a few quick photos, I decided to walk through the arch in the jetty and into the heart of Playas.

It was like walking from one vortex into another…from calm to chaos.

The commercial heart and residential area of this city of about 26,000 residents is front and center on a sweeping crescent-shaped bay. On this particular Saturday, as I’ve said, hordes of day trippers from Guayaquil had descended on this part of the beach…

From beneath umbrellas and sun tents and make-shift tarps they emerged to throw balls (and toss back a few beers) and bob in the surf.

On makeshift grills, lunches of fresh fish were slowly roasting. Vendors trolled the beach and hawked roasted plantains, ice cream, and fresh coconuts from carts planted here and there in the sand. And of course, music blared…and amidst all this action, dozens of gaily colored wooden fishing boats pulled up on the beach.

If you prefer your beach life to be a bit more sedate, don’t worry, just head west… Away from the chaos of the heart of Playas, it’s easy to find your own piece of very quiet beach.

And if you love fresh seafood, Playas is definitely your kind of place. That’s what I discovered that evening when I dined on fresh shrimp and a huge fillet smothered in garlic sauce at a tiny family-run restaurant, and sat watching the sun cast brilliant colors across the sky…

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